By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE (ANS – November 7, 2015) – The African nation of Sierra Leone has officially been declared free of Ebola by the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the BBC, thousands of people took to the streets of the capital, Freetown, at the stroke of midnight – marking 42 days without a single declared case of the disease.
There were further cheers when the World Health Organization (WHO) local representative made the official announcement later on Saturday.
“The outbreak killed almost 4,000 people in Sierra Leone over the past 18 months,” stated the BBC.
Many gathered around a giant cotton tree in the center of the city. Some lit candles in memory of the victims, while others danced with joy.
Dr. Oliver Johnson, from the King’s Sierra Leone partnership, worked at an Ebola clinic in Freetown, and has strong links with medical professionals there.
“[For] everyone I’ve spoken to, there’s a sense of relief that this might finally be over and maybe a bit of disbelief that after so many false starts, or false ends, we might finally be there,” he told the BBC.
A country is considered free of human-to-human transmission once two 21-day incubation periods have passed since the last known case tested negative for a second time.
“This is the moment Sierra Leone has been waiting for. Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital on the run-up to midnight, said Tulip Mazumdar of BBC News in Freetown.
“Women’s groups came together to organize a march through the city center; the final point was a 600-year-old cotton tree which sits on a huge roundabout. Usually, the area is jammed with cars, but last night it was packed with people. Some held up candles, others jumped around dancing and a military band led the procession through the city.
“There were waves of celebrations, and then silence as names of some of the dead were beamed on to a screen. Health workers in particular were honored for their bravery and sacrifice, they were some of the first to die when Ebola struck. Today is an enormous milestone for Sierra Leoneans, and people are overjoyed. But this historic moment is bittersweet.”
Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma is due to address crowds in the city.
On Friday, he blamed the WHO for delaying Sierra Leone declaring a state of emergency and restricting movement during the Ebola outbreak. He said his government did at the time what it could do and did not have the knowledge to fight the disease.
The BBC said that he also stated that his government had to put up with the delays because international organizations such as the WHO “were the experts.”
Neighboring Liberia was declared Ebola-free in September following 4,800 deaths there.
A handful of cases are still being reported in neighboring Guinea. Sierra Leone has said it will take heightened security and health screening measures at their shared border.
Former rock star, turned missionary, is a hero
One of the heroes of the deadly Ebola is a former Australian rock-star atheist, who found Christ and became a fearless missionary to war-torn Sierra Leone, West Africa, and stayed on for the great challenge of his life.
Fr. Themi Adams, who was once a member of The Flies, that once shared the stage with The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, and has been running The Holy Orthodox Mission in Freetown, the capital city of the troubled West African nation for several years, stayed at his post during the crisis, to help prepare his “flock” to protect themselves against the deadly Ebola virus.
Every day, the Greek Orthodox Priest would give out protective gloves for his staff and those at the Mission, give them lectures, and pray for them that they would not contract Ebola. And, as far as I know, none did. He also has been extending his hand to distribute food, medicine, water, and of course, the love of Jesus Christian.
Despite calls by his friends to return to his home in Australia, he refused to leave the Holy Orthodox Mission, and stood side-by-side with those who were being housed there, and only recently when it appeared that the virus was about to beaten, did he make a visit “Down Under,” to raise funds for his courageous work in Sierra Leone.
By the way, a motion picture is due to be made about this extraordinary “Saint of Africa” called “Themi.”
For further information, please contact the screenwriter, Wid Bastian, at firstname.lastname@example.org or John Tsambazis at email@example.com . Mr. Tsambazis is the Executive Producer of the upcoming feature film.
Photo captions: 1) An Ebola medical worker carries a child. 2) Sierra Leone will feel the impact of Ebola for years to come. 3) Fr. Themi Adams pictured in Freetown with some of his friends. 4) Fr. Themi equipping his staff. 4) Dan Wooding.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is also the author of some 45 books and has two US-based TV programs –- “Windows on the World” and “Inside Hollywood with Dan Wooding” — which are both broadcast on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv/) and a weekly radio show called “Front Page Radio” on the KWVE Radio Network (www.kwve.com).
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